Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ recently hosted her fifth Annual Youth Leadership Conference at Rollins College in Winter Park. The conference welcomed more than 200 high school student leaders from 23 Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) and the non-profit teen group Family & Friends United, Inc.
The half-day event engaged students and taught them about the functions of local county government, how to better participate in community initiatives and provided insight on how to strengthen their leadership skills.
“This conference showcases the many facets of local government and how our students can get involved at any age,” Mayor Jacobs said. “From meeting with government and community leaders to participating in mock hearings, students learned about their local government and how decisions are made in a real-world setting.”
Isaiah Rutledge, an 18-year-old senior at Boone High School, participated as a witness in a mock Code Enforcement Board case involving the alleged discovery of illegal substances at a local residence.
“I thoroughly enjoyed Mayor Jacobs’ Youth Leadership Conference,” Rutledge said. “I learned that Code Enforcement is a multi-faceted job and they have to deal with very serious issues and crimes. I’m excited about getting involved in my local government. Now that I am registered to vote this year, I want to volunteer as a poll worker in the local elections.”
Students also participated in a Youth Issues Forum led by Mayor Jacobs, Orange County School Board Vice Chairman Nancy Robbinson and OCPS Chief Academic Officer Dr. Scott Fritz, where they discussed topics of importance to this generation. The top issues of concern that were presented included literacy, the effects of standardized testing, cyber bullying and negative peer pressure.
“The choices will be yours, and the decisions about using our resources and tax dollars to create a community in which you will want to live and raise your families will be yours one day,” Mayor Jacobs said during her closing remarks. “This generation is so much more aware of how government can affect your lives and how you can make a difference in your community.”
The Youth Leadership Conference was founded by Mayor Jacobs in 2011 to connect students with their local government. About 1,000 local student leaders have participated in the program since its inception.